I’ve been in Japan for two weeks now. I hope it’s not too early to say that Japanese people are very kind to someone who can’t speak a single Japanese at all.
(Actually I have learned “Nihongo wakarimasen. Eigo onegai shimasu.” before leaving Indonesia. Mean: “I can’t speak Japanese. Please speak in English!” Which apparently not very helpful at all, since most Japanese don’t speak English.) But language limitation doesn’t stop them for being kind though. At least these three Japanese has made my opinion
1. Random guy at Takatsu
One week ago we’re on our way to find Kawasaki Education Center to met someone who in charge to provide ‘support’ for my son’s education. (He’s supposed to be in Elementary School this July. But Japan education system is different. They start their school year in April. Hell they even have ‘their own way’ to count the year, which become my confusion when they change my son’s birth year. Talk about it later)
Since we don’t speak a single Japanese, so I relied on printed map and the picture of the building we need to come to. (plus map application on my husband’s iphone, which not really helpful too, since it’s using all Kanji on the map address). Long story short, we’re lost.
After circling around, I finally see someone, who doesn’t seem busy. A long hair guy, in short, who just standing in front of a building, staring a wall & smoking. I am too tired to think about everything had I heard about Japanese people.
I approached him, and asked him in English, “Excuse me, do you know where this building is?” He seems surprised.
(I heard a lot stories about how Japanese are not really friendly to strangers. Like on the first day we arrived, my husband saw a guy drunk, tipped & rolled down in an escalator at a train station near our apartment. No one help him to get up. People just walked passed him. The other time I heard about someone got accident in the street of Tokyo, no one stop to help him, until some Indonesians stopped their car and help him. In Indonesia, it’s just a common act when seeing someone in trouble even if they’re stranger, people will come to offer some help. Not in Japan. So I heard.)
After erasing his surprised look. This guy just nods. He didn’t speak, but gave me a sign with his hand to follow him. Then he just walked before us, saying nothing but short sentence on the way to the building “Where from?” I answered “Indonesia.” He nods again and smiles. We arrived at the crossing. He pointed a building across the road and smile.
2. Highschool boy at Kizuki
So I need to come to this school to meet the school principal, who will interview my son & I. Like I used to, I relied on map app on iphone. Silly me, I upgrade my ios from 5 to 6, that morning. Everything on my map written Kanji. So I couldn’t find ‘Sumiyoshi elementary school’ anymore on my map. (Which still written in Romans the day before)
But I’ve seen the map before. And I trust my instinct and go to the ‘education building’ symbol on my map, and go there. Since there’s a lot ‘education building’ in the neighborhood, off course I got to a wrong school. After trying circling around blocks after blocks (again) I finally found someone who walks alone on the street. (Pssst. I call him Japanese Harry Potter, because he’s wearing black or dark blue highschool uniform, wearing round glasses and bring something in a case. Looks a lot like wand to me! 🙂 )
I asked him, in English “Do you know where Sumiyoshi Shogakko’s building is?” Since he’s I assume in high school I believe he should be able to speak English, apparently not. He answered me in Japanese. And I just nodded and thinking, Okay thanks. Please stop talking. I don’t understand. I will find someone else. I’m in hurry!
Finally he stopped talking, I walked fast and still as confused as before. Until I met this crossing and don’t know where to go. I decided to choose one way anyway. And suddenly this Japanese Harry Potter showed up from my back, and make a sign with his hand, telling me I choose the wrong way, and he want me to follow him. He didn’t speak a single English. After 5 minutes walks we finally find the building. He spoke with someone via intercom at the school gate (in Japanese) until someone (I assume) told us to come.
Boy, this sweet boy didn’t have to do that. But he walked with us entering the school building, make sure i meet the person I need to meet.
He’s so nice. I wish I know his name, I forgot to ask. My mind was very occupied with worries, that we’re going too late to the meeting. I only said Arigato Gozaimasu before he flew with his wand.
She’s probably my first Japanese friend. Someone introduced us. Her house is 10 minutes from mine. You know I don’t have even basic knowledge in Hiragana, Katakana and ugh Kanji. Kei had helped me reading some ‘Kiela’s school documents’, and took me shopping my son’s school need. She’s super kind person and she speaks Indonesia (a little). Yeah, Kei loves everything Indonesia apparently. She knows some Balinese dances, she also learned playing gamelan once. She’s so sweet, and makes sure I didn’t get too stressed with all this ‘language barrier’ problem.
You know, when you heard stories, they might be true. But don’t let those stories define yours, because sometimes the opposite is also true.
(I wish I had pictures of these people. Apparently I don’t. But here’s some Japan pictures I took)
(Motosumiyoshi, Train Station, Kawasaki. pict: from instagram)
(shopping district around Jyugaoka, Tokyo. pict: from instagram)